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New Orleans Pralines

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These New Orleans pralines have a buttery richness, the perfect balance of brown sugar sweetness, the distinctive flavor and crunch of pecans, and a hint of vanilla. These tasty treats offer a taste of Louisiana right in your own kitchen.

New Orleans pralines are a delightful treat and a staple around our house for the holidays! I was first introduced to these Southern delicacies by my good girlfriend from Louisiana. She has been whipping up batches of pecan pralines for as long as I can remember.

Over the years I have tried to replicate her family’s secret recipe. It took a couple of years, but I think I have finally mastered the art of making smooth, thin pralines and I’m excited to pass on the tradition and share this fantastic recipe with all of you.

A Nod to Aunt Sally’s Creole Pralines: For those familiar with the iconic Aunt Sally’s Creole Pralines in New Orleans, you’ll find a reminiscent charm in this recipe. If you’ve been on the lookout for a homemade version that captures that magic, look no further. This is the one!

What you’ll love about this recipe:


  • SWEET, NUTTY FLAVOR – New Orleans Pralines are rich and sweet, and boast the distinct taste of pecans. They also smell AMAZING.
  • BUTTERY & CREAMY TEXTURE – These have a smooth, creamy texture that melts in your mouth. The contrast between the smooth candy and the crunch of the pecans is perfect.
  • SPECIAL OCCASIONS – New Orleans Pralines are commonly given as gifts during Christmas and other holidays and celebrations. Their homemade charm and sweet decadence make them a thoughtful and appreciated gift.

What are Pralines?

Pralines are a type of confection made with sugar, butter, milk, and pecans. They are sweet, butter, and creamy with a fudgy texture that practically melts in your mouth. Also referred to as praline candy or pecan pralines, they are a Southern favorite, and especially popular in New Orleans.

Ingredients

  • Pecans
  • Light brown sugar
  • Granulated sugar
  • Butter
  • Evaporated milk
  • Vanilla extract

Note: I love thin pecan pralines that have a flat, smooth look. However, some people prefer thick, chunky pralines. It’s really a matter of personal preference. If you want yours to come out thick, use only 1/2 cup evaporated milk and let the mixture sit for a minute or two longer before spooning it out onto the sheet pan.

Recipe Substitutions & Variations

  • Flavorings: Add a twist to your pralines by incorporating different flavorings. Consider using almond extract, caramel, or even a touch of bourbon for a unique variation.
  • Texture Enhancers: To experiment with the texture, you can add ingredients like shredded coconut for extra chewiness.
  • Heavy Cream vs. Half and Half vs. Evaporated Milk:
    • Heavy Cream: Using heavy cream in the recipe will yield pralines with a richer and creamier texture. The higher fat content in heavy cream contributes to a luscious mouthfeel, making the pralines more indulgent.
    • Half and Half: Half and half is a blend of equal parts whole milk and cream. It provides a middle ground between heavy cream and milk, offering a balance of richness without being as heavy as pure cream. Pralines made with half and half will have a slightly lighter texture compared to those made with heavy cream.
    • Evaporated Milk: Evaporated milk has a creamy and slightly caramelized flavor due to the concentration process. It is less thick than heavy cream but richer than regular milk. Pralines made with evaporated milk have a smooth and velvety texture, with a nuanced sweetness and richness.

Special Equipment

When making pralines, it’s important to have a candy thermometer and the right saucepan.

Best Saucepan for Praline Candy Making

The type of saucepan matters when making pecan pralines. Candy making in general requires precise temperature control, and the type of saucepan you use can lead to result in uneven heating, burnt pecan pralines, or other undesirable outcomes. Here are some considerations:

  • Material: Stainless steel or heavy-bottomed aluminum saucepans are often recommended for candy making. These materials conduct heat evenly and respond well to temperature changes.
  • Size: Choose a saucepan that is large enough to accommodate the expanding candy mixture without the risk of overflowing. However, a saucepan that is too large may result in uneven heating.
  • Thickness of Bottom: A heavy-bottomed saucepan helps prevent hot spots and promotes even heat distribution. This is crucial when precise temperature control is required for candy making.
  • Cleanliness: Ensure the saucepan is clean and completely dry before you start making candy. Any impurities or water in the pan can affect the texture.

How to Make New Orleans Pralines

Prep: Line a sheet pan with a silicone baking mat. Alternatively, you can use foil, just grease it down with a little cooking spray or butter. Then grab a spoon, grease that down with butter, and set it aside. You will use the spoon later to scoop the sticky praline mixture onto the sheet pan.

Boil & Whisk: In a large, sturdy saucepan, throw in the butter, light brown and granulated sugar, and heavy cream. Attach a candy thermometer to the side and set it over Medium High heat. Stir until the sugars dissolve and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to Medium and cook, undisturbed, until it reaches the “soft ball” stage at 235°F; this takes about 2 or 3 minutes.

Add Nuts and Vanilla: Once it reaches 235°F, add the pecans and vanilla. Continue cooking on Medium heat until the temp reaches the “hard ball” stage, at or around 250°F. Then, remove the saucepan from the heat and let the confection cool, undisturbed, for about 2 to 4 minutes.

Scoop: Grab the spoon you greased with butter and work quickly to scoop spoonfuls from the pan and transfer them onto your prepared sheet pan. The praline mixture will thicken up quickly and it will be more difficult to scoop.

Chill: Let your pralines cool completely and harden. This may take up to half an hour, but patience is key! Keep leftovers in an airtight container; they are best when consumed within 1 to 2 weeks.

How to Ship Pralines in the Mail

New Orleans pralines are perfect for gift-giving during the holiday season, especially Christmas. The best part is you can easily ship them to friends and family all over! It does require careful packaging to ensure they arrive at their destination in good condition. Here are some tips for shipping pralines and similar treats:

  • Let Them Cool Completely: Ensure that your pralines are completely cooled and hardened before attempting to package them. This will help maintain their shape during transit.
  • Wrap Individually: Ensure each one is wrapped securely in cellophane wrappers or similar designed for chocolates, caramels, etc. before placing them in the container. This helps to protect them from breakage and keeps them fresh.
  • Choose the Right Container: Select a sturdy container that provides enough space for the pralines without allowing them to shift too much. Consider using a tin, airtight plastic container, or a sturdy box.
  • Cushioning Material: Use cushioning material such as bubble wrap or packing peanuts to fill any empty spaces in the package, providing additional protection against movement and breakage.
  • Temperature Considerations: Be mindful of the weather conditions when shipping. Extreme heat or cold can affect the quality of the pralines. Consider adding insulation or using expedited shipping during hot weather.
  • Label the Package: Clearly label the package as “fragile” to alert handlers to handle it with care. Additionally, mark the package as perishable.
  • Choose Expedited Shipping: Opt for expedited shipping services to reduce the transit time.

Recipe Tips & Tricks

  • Use a Candy Thermometer: Invest in a reliable candy thermometer to accurately gauge the temperature. This is a MUST HAVE for achieving the right consistency and texture in your pralines.
  • Prep Everything in Advance: Pralines require you to work quickly once the it’s ready. Have all your ingredients measured and utensils ready to go before you start cooking.
  • Choose Quality Pecans: Opt for fresh and high-quality pecans. Toasting them before adding to the mixture can enhance their flavor.
  • Timing is Key: Pay close attention to the temperature! Be ready to remove from heat as soon as it reaches the firm ball stage. Overcooking can result in grainy pralines.
  • Cooling: Allow the pralines to cool undisturbed for the specified time. Rushing this step can affect the final texture.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Pralines can be a bit tricky to master, especially concerning the timing. Don’t be discouraged if the first batch isn’t perfect. Practice and adjustments will lead to praline perfection.

Troubleshooting

If your pecan praline mixture is struggling to reach the desired temperature, here are some troubleshooting tips that may help:

  • Use a Candy Thermometer: Ensure you are using a reliable candy thermometer. Check its accuracy by testing it in boiling water (it should read 212°F or 100°C). If it’s inaccurate, you might need a new thermometer.
  • Cook Over Medium Heat: Cook the mixture over medium heat. High heat can cause the sugar to caramelize too quickly and lead to scorching.
  • Check for Soft-Ball Stage: Use the cold water test to check if the mixture forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water. Simply drop a small amount into cold water and watch what happens. If the temperature has reached the “soft ball” stage, the praline mixture should form a soft, pliable ball that holds its shape when pressed between your fingers. If it doesn’t, continue cooking and retest until the correct consistency is achieved.
  • Avoid Stirring Once Boiling: Once the mixture reaches a boil, avoid stirring. Stirring can introduce air bubbles and interfere with the candy-making process.
  • Use a Clean Saucepan/Pot: Ensure the pot is clean and free of any residue from previous cooking. Even small amounts of residue can impact the outcome.
  • Increase Heat Gradually: Gradually increase the heat rather than starting with high heat. Rapid temperature changes can cause issues in achieving the desired consistency.
  • Patience is Key: Candy-making requires patience. Allow the mixture to heat gradually, and resist the temptation to rush the process.

What to Serve with Pralines

Pralines pair well with a variety of accompaniments! Here are some ideas:

  • Ice Cream: I’ve never tried this but it sounds delicious; the buttery, nutty pralines paired with creamy vanilla ice cream? Yum!
  • Christmas Dessert Board: A nice dessert platter with an assortment of sweet treats, including pralines, cookies, and small pastries, would be a decadent spread.
  • Gift Baskets: Package these pralines in gift baskets with complementary items like gourmet coffee, tea, or a selection of chocolates for a thoughtful and delicious gift.

New Orleans Praline FAQ

What’s the difference between soft ball and hard ball stages?

This refers to specific temperature ranges in candy making, as measured by a candy thermometer. These stages indicate the concentration of sugar syrup and determine the texture of the final candy. The soft ball stage is between 234°F to 240°F (112°C to 116°C) and the hard ball stage is around 250°F to 266°F (121°C to 130°C).

Why won’t my pralines set?

If your pralines are too soft and won’t set, they may not have reached the correct temperature during cooking. Ensure that you heat it to the right temp. Using a reliable candy thermometer is crucial for accuracy.

Why are my pralines hard and brittle?

Overheating can result in pralines that are too hard or brittle. Pay close attention to the cooking time and temperature. If you find that your pralines are consistently too hard, try cooking the mixture for a slightly shorter duration.

Why are my pralines sticky?

Pralines that are too sticky might not have reached the appropriate temperature or have not cooled adequately. Ensure that the pralines cool completely before attempting to move or store them. If they remain sticky, you can try briefly placing them in the refrigerator to firm up.

Why are there white sugar crystals forming on the pralines?

It might be due to undissolved sugar or moisture during cooking. Start with a clean saucepan and make sure to dissolve sugar thoroughly during the initial stages of cooking, and avoid stirring once the it begins to boil.

Summary

This recipe blends pecans, butter, sugar, and milk to perfection, creating a heavenly texture that practically melts in your mouth. Elevate your home baking experience and spread joy this holiday season with our New Orleans pralines.

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New Orleans Pralines

  • Author: cooks with soul
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 12 pralines 1x
  • Category: dessert
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: creole, american, southern

Description

These New Orleans pralines have a buttery richness, the perfect balance of brown sugar sweetness, the distinctive flavor and crunch of pecans, and a hint of vanilla. These tasty treats offer a taste of Louisiana right in your own kitchen.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Instructions

  1. Line a sheet pan with a silicone baking mat or foil, greased with cooking spray or butter. Grease a spoon with butter for later use in scooping the praline mixture onto the pan.
  2. In a study, medium saucepan, combine butter, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, and evaporated milk.
  3. Attach a candy thermometer to the side and set it over Medium High heat.
  4. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugars dissolve.
  5. Reduce heat to Medium and cook, undisturbed, until it reaches the “soft ball” stage at 235°F, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  6. Once the temperature hits 235°F, add pecans and vanilla.
  7. Continue boiling until it reaches the “hard ball” stage around 250°F.
  8. Remove saucepan from heat and allow the confection to cool for 2 to 4 minutes.
  9. Quickly use the pre-greased spoon to scoop spoonfuls onto the prepared sheet pan. The praline mixture thickens rapidly, so work quickly.
  10. Allow pralines to cool completely and harden on the sheet pan, approximately 30 minutes.
  11. Store leftovers in an airtight container; best consumed within 2 days.

Notes

When making pralines, it’s important to have a candy thermometer and the right saucepan. See recipe post for more details.

Keywords: pralines, new orleans, creole, pecans, pecan pralines

20 Comments

  1. These pralines taste JUST like the ones I had in New Orleans. So this will be my go-to recipe now. Thank you!

  2. I made a cookie tray for Christmas and added these. Huge hit. They disappeared and everyone was asking me for the recipe!

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